The Grand Tour has replaced The American with a new female racing driver – but they failed to even mention her name.
After axing The American, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding The Grand Tour season two was who was going to be the show’s new racing driver setting lap times around the Eboladrome circuit. A series of tongue in cheek videos showed Clarkson, Hammond and May “auditioning” new drivers like former Formula One racer Mark Webber, a stunt driver, and even a brazen car thief. In episode two, it was revealed that a female racing driver has replaced The American - but it was very anticlimactic. Bizarrely, they didn’t even mention her name.
Clarkson simply announced “and here she is!” when introducing her. After audiences complained about The American’s incessant one-liners, it’s possible that they want to avoid turning the next racing driver into a caricature, but it felt awkward watching Clarkson refer to her as “she” without ever mentioning her name. Instead, we had to wait until the credits rolled to find out her identity. According to Jalopnik, an Amazon spokesperson speculated that audience reactions to Mike Skinner, aka The American, in the first series were so overwhelmingly negative that producers deliberately downplayed Eaton’s role as a driver rather than a character.
But that still doesn’t explain failing to even mention her name, especially as they can’t use an anonymous driver like The Stig. Her name is Abbie Eaton, and she’s a professional British racing driver. A quick visit to her official website reveals her long list of impressive racing accomplishments. The 25-year old racing driver won the 2014 championship in the Mazda MX5 Supercup, and won a race and secured several podiums in the 2015 British GT Cup driving a BMW M3 GTR. More recently, she drove a Ferrari 488 GTE in the 2017 Blancpain Endurance Series, where she became the first female to finish on the podium.
She’s also a qualified racing instructor, so she has plenty of driving know-how to bring to the show. It’s great to see The Grand Tour diversify its line-up in what has traditionally been a male-dominated show. What matters most, though, is her talent on the track, and her first appearance, in which she thrashed a Mercedes GT R around the track, certainly left a lasting impression as she pushed the feisty sports car to its limit. It will be interesting to see whether they develop Eaton’s character in future episodes. She’s clearly a seriously talented driver, so it would be good to see her appear in films like Sabine sometimes does in Top Gear and interact with Clarkson, Hammond and May.